Writing a Birth Plan
What is a BIRTH PLAN?
A Birth Plan is a document, or wish list, of the things that you and your partner do or do not want to take place during your labour, birth and postnatal care. It can be very detailed or just a short note of ideals that you have about birthing your baby.
Why a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is a tool that can be used in any birthing setting; it helps define what you want from your birth experience and helps build rapport between you and your caregivers whether in hospital, a birth center or at home. As women we all deserve and have the right to make informed choices when it comes to birthing our babies, with this right comes responsibility. As women we have the responsibility of finding the information required to make informed, educated choices. When we take this responsibility on ourselves we are no longer passive recipients of care, we are empowered and informed consumers taking an active role in our births.
A birth plan is a great way to take a look at what we know what issues we need to investigate further and offers us the opportunity to ask the right questions. It means that we have put down in black and white what we hope to achieve, stated that we are taking responsibility for our own births and shows that we have made an empowered decision about how we birth our children.
Components of the Birth Plan?
Your birth plan is your individual guide for your birth experience. It can be as formal or casual as you like. It may be helpful to consider the following issues that you may wish to address:
- An introduction – can be just a short paragraph about you and your partner, your pregnancy, your beliefs about birth. This is also a good way to introduce any support people who will be with you for the birth and the role you want them to have. You can also briefly explain any previous births or experiences that you feel may affect your birthing.
- The things that are most important to YOU. This is your birth experience, your baby, and your family. What are your deepest wishes for birthing? What is important to your partner? Do you have a preference for a darkened room, music playing – or silence?
- A general description of how you plan to manage the different stages of labour – do you wish to be active in first stage, do you want to eat and drink? Do you agree to routine fetal monitoring?
- Do you agree to routine vaginal exams? Or would you prefer labour without interruption?
- Do you plan on using oils, massage and music in your labour to help with the contractions?
- What about water? Are you open to any other forms of pain relief, gas, morphine or an epidural?
- Are there special words that you want used in your labour, like support people and health care staff saying ‘waves’ or ‘expansions’ rather than contractions?
- What about second stage (pushing stage), do you want to allow your body to push or are you going to be happy with instructed active pushing?
- Do you have a preferred position you want to be in (for first time Mums this may be an unknown, there are great positions that make delivery easier, JUST ASK) to deliver the baby?
- Do you want the baby delivered onto your tummy? Do you know that it is recommended that you have skin to skin contact on delivery? Do you want at least 2 hours uninterrupted time with the baby skin to skin immediately after delivery?
- Do you plan on feeding baby at the breast as soon after birth as baby wants to feed? Do you want to try baby led attachment?
- For third stage (delivery of the placenta/after birth) are you happy to have syntocinon injection and managed delivery or do you prefer a physiological delivery of the placenta (no interventions – allow the afterbirth to come away in its own time).
- Who is going to be your advocate (the person that protects your wishes and honors your needs) in labour; your partner, your mother, your doula – or your entire birth team? Putting names in your birth plan helps health care providers know who is who and what their role is.
- If things do not go as planned or if something unforeseen occurs before or during labour you still have choices you can make. As much as we want to be positive in all things birthing we all know and have to acknowledge that birth is not always perfect and nor is it always an easy process. Given this, should something unforeseen happen, what choices would you make?
- Should you have to have a general anaesthetic, who do you want to hold the baby while you are unavailable? If you are unable to would you have the baby given to Dad or another close relative for skin to skin contact (Dad can take his shirt off and pop baby on his chest skin to skin until you are well enough)?
- Should you have to have a caesarean would you like to see if your chosen music could be played in theatre?
- Are you someone who is very opposed to having an epidural/spinal for a caesarean? Sometimes, though rarely, something serious may arise that requires you to have a general anaesthetic for an emergency caesarean; even in this case you still have choices!
If there is time your music can be played while you go under, Dad can have the baby for skin to skin as soon as the baby is well enough. As soon as you are awake and well enough (it is a good idea to have someone ready to strip the baby off if they are dressed as you may find this hard if you are groggy) strip the baby off and, with help, put the baby on your chest, skin to skin. Baby will remember your smell and the sound of your heart instantly and may immediately start looking around for your nipple. See, empowered women always have a choice!!